(Werbung/advertisement as I was invited by Lana Tourism)
There’s Autumn and then there’s Autumn in Lana and once you have experienced it you will begin to wonder why you haven’t been travelling to South Tyrol every October for years.
This year in early Spring I already got to spend three amazing days in Lana, a time when Winter was just taking its leave and Spring was not yet ready to show its face. So my experiences were shaped by hikes in the snow and cool sunrises (you can read more about it here).
But Autumn! Autumn bathed the quaint town in the Adige valley in a whole new light. A light so enchanting that we felt like we had just stepped into one of the worlds most magical paintings.
The word ‘autumnal’ is commonly associated with colourful leaves, but also with cosy evenings under cuddly blankets, warm drinks, colder temperatures and where I’m from with lots of rain and wind.
But in Lana we have to scratch some of that and add a few more words to the definition of Autumn, like adventurous, sunny, delicious, cosy or unwinding. So read on and I’ll show you what the third season in Northern Italy looks like and what it has to offer.
For the avid hiker
As a child I didn’t find it funny at all when my parents suggested to go for a walk – let alone hiking. Who on earth would want to spend hours dragging themselves up a mountain? And voluntarily.
Thankfully my opinion about hiking has changed completely since then. For me there is nothing you can even begin to compare with the feeling of finally reaching the summit after the last, sweaty ascent and being at eye level with the surrounding mountains.
Good thing that you’re never far away from the next hiking track in Lana, as the Alps are right at your doorstep. If you are motivated then you should aim for the summit of Laugenspitze. You’re overflowing with energy? Good. Then make it your sunrise destination!
That’s the kind of energy that made us wake up at 5am so that we could start the hike on time. The dark sky was still dotted with stars as we were driving up the Gampenpass towards the start of the track and when we got out of the car the chilly, early-morning air washed over our faces. We donned our hiking boots and headlamps and off we went!
The ascent sure isn’t an easy one, especially when the darkness is obscuring everything from view. But as soon as we reached the tree line and could see the dusky outlines of the mountains our energy was fired up again and we kept on marching towards Laugensee, a little tarn below the summit. When we arrived at the water’s edge we looked back over our shoulders: the valleys far below us were shrouded in mist and the sky was slowly getting brighter and brighter.
Soon we felt the first rays of sunshine on our faces and with the biting wind up there at 2,000m altitude that was a welcome and pleasant feeling. Meanwhile I just couldn’t take my eyes off the mountains as the soft light of the sun bathed them in layers upon layers of the palest blue.
The very last ascent to the summit cross had us releasing our inner mountain goats to master the quite steep and rocky underground. Once you have conquered that last bit though, you reach the peak of Laugenspitze at 2,434m above sea level.
The question if all that struggle was worth the early wake up call is unnecessary if you let your gaze wander over the towering, blue mountains beautifully contrasting with the yellow larches.
Of course it doesn’t have to be the Laugenspitze. There are less demanding tracks as well! The Vigiljoch, Lana’s local mountain offers views just as pretty plus it doesn’t necessarily want to be scaled on foot. Down in the village you can comfortably get on the cable car which will take you up to an altitude of 1,490 m.
The Vigiljoch is special not only because of its panoramic views of the Dolomites stretching along the horizon. Up the mountain there are no cars, making the already fresh, south tyrolean air even more invigorating and you will listen in vain for noises you know from cities. Instead our hike up to St. Vigilius chapel (1,793m) was accompanied by the cheerful chatter of other hikers, by the wind in the trees and our own footsteps on the forest path.
Whether you decide on steep tracks or relaxing paths – Lana somehow turns everyone into a passionate hiker. There’s no getting around it!
For the adrenaline junkie
My eyes were welling with tears, my face was wind-swept but still I was laughing out loud! Why? Because I had just sped down a mountain at 37 miles per hour.
On the second day of our trip to Lana we borrowed two e-bikes from our hotel, the Alpiana Resort in Völlan as we wanted to go up to Gallhof, a restaurant at 1,200m. That meant a climb of 500 meters – a real feat of strength for our legs which surely would have been my downfall if we had only had classic mountain bikes at our disposal. Bless electricity!
Our way led us past meadows full of apple trees, their branches still decorated with ripe fruit ready to be picked. Up, up, up we went until the shadows of the woods enclosed us and we could breathe in the pleasantly cool air. Oh, if only everything were as easy as riding an e-bike up a mountain…
In no time at all we reached Gallhof and lingered there for a while to take in the view. We could see right down to Bolzano from our vantage point and further back in the haze the Dolomites rose into a cloudless, blue sky. Framed by orange and yellow leaves it was hard to mount our bikes again and bid those views farewell. But dashing back down to Völlan with up to 37 miles per hour wasn’t the worst thing either, especially with sun and the mountains keeping us company every second of the way.
For the gourmet
Above all Autumn in South Tyrol means cosiness – the kind of cosiness that comes from feasting and drinking. In the North of Italy they even have their own word for it: Törggelen.
We had the pleasure of taking part in a small, guided tour organised by the Lana tourism board: the Chestnut Culinaria. As the name already suggests it was all about chestnuts – Keschtn as you call them in South Tyrol – which are indispensable during the Autumn season. But not only that! The colourful season and Törggelen also stand for new red and white wine, only waiting to be tasted.
The first stop of the tour were the chestnut groves above Lana where winegrower and chestnut farmer Irmgard Windegger filled us in on growing and harvesting the round, brown nuts.
We got to try fresh grape juice, crunchy apples and treated ourselves to a sip of chestnut liquor before we went on to Zollweghof, an organic vineyard. Here, at the entrance to the Ulten valley wine as been cultivated for decades – nowadays even in a biodynamical way.
And what would Törggelen be without a little wine tasting… So there we were, holding our glasses filled with Pinot Gris, standing between vines and grapes, and letting our eyes wander over the sun-kissed hillsides of the Zollweghof, while Irmgard Windegger was passing on her knowledge about vineyard cultivation.
When she led us back to the courtyard of the estate, rustically set tables were waiting for us. Brittle bread, fresh baguette, cheese and prosciutto were lined up next to red, rosé and white wine bottles and you could almost hear everyones taste buds dancing with joy. A short distance away from the table smoke started rising into the air, settling itself among the vines as Franz Pfeifhofer, also a wine grower of Zollweghof roasted the chestnuts over an open fire for the guests. That evening couldn’t have ended more cosily.
Just as cosy, with a menu delightfully screaming “hearty” out of every corner, is the restaurant Pfefferlechner in Lana. Homely dining areas with lovely wooden interior await the hungry gourmet and with a plate full of ‘Kasknödel’ (cheese dumplings) and a sip of cold beer from the restaurants own brewery you can forget all your sorrows. For every dish on the menu the team of the Pfefferlechner use regional ingredients, some even from their own cultivation – it can’t get any fresher and after an exhausting, adventurous day that’s exactly what you need!
For the relaxed kind
No active holiday is complete without the possibility to rest those tired limbs every once in a while or replenish your energy reserves with delicious food. Otherwise that active holiday would eventually leave you absolutely knackered. Good thing there’s the Alpiana Resort in Völlan! Völlan lies a wee bit above Lana at an altitude of 700 meters and can be easily and quickly reached by car.
The Alpiana itself not only offers fantastic views over the Adige valley but also a pretty good all-round carefree package for every traveller. There’s comfy rooms with spacious showers, sauna friends get their fill of rejuvenating infusions and the outdoor swimming pools are worth a dip even on a sunny Autumn day. If the temperatures allow it you might even want to chill on one of the many loungers afterwards and let the sun do the drying.
Then there’s the beating heart of every hotel – and I’m not talking about the love heart-shaped saline pool of the resort, which is definitely a good place to relax for a couple more minutes. No, I am talking about the restaurant, the mecca for every little gourmand. The chefs and staff will go out of their way to send you on a culinary journey bursting with oh so many flavours. Breakfast is tempting with scrambled eggs, fresh bread and buns, waffles, pancakes, and the most delicious honey. Moreover there’s a small antipasti buffet for lunch every day and in the evenings a scrumptious 4-course-menu awaits the growling stomach complete with a salad bar and show kitchen.
Speaking of food: that one day when we got up really early for our hike to Laugenspitze, hot coffee and a packed lunch were waiting for us in our room, caringly arranged by the staff of the Alpiana. If that doesn’t make your little guest-heart leap for joy, I don’t know what does!
For rainy days
Personally I’ve never experienced it, but apparently bad weather befalls Lana from time to time (I still think that’s a myth because the sun is constantly shining). If it does hail, rain or pelt you should know better than to bury your head in the sand though. Either you’re tough, don your water- and windproof jacket and brave the bad weather or you’re taking it easy for a couple of hours and fill your gardener’s heart with joy.
The variety of colour and shape of the Raffeiner Orchideenwelt in closeby Gargazon will transport every flora enthusiast to cloud nine. 150 different species of orchids await visitors almost all year round. But that’s not the only attraction: if you wanted to you could get up close and personal with lorikeets. These very inquisitive, colourful parrots (although their curiousity is mostly limited to food) settle down calmly on your hand, your shoulder or even your head – provided they sense that you are carrying something tasty. Combined with the stuffy, warm air of the greenhouses it creates a very realistic jungle atmosphere and if you’re lucky enough you might even get to spot the in-house tiger…
If the feet are still too small to go on a long hike and the legs too short for a mountain bike tour, I’ve got a last, quick tip for all the families among you. Just go and visit the Rainguthof in Gfrill (approximately 20 minutes from Lana by car). This small petting zoo will make your kids eyes shine (probably even your adult eyes).
The moment you enter the zoo insistent goats welcome you, waiting for you to reach out a hand full of food. Chooks and peacocks are roaming around freely, sheep are slouching lazily in the sun and deer are observing us only from afar at first. There are horses, cows, bulls, donkeys, and a pig that made me smile a lot. It slipped cunningly under fences only to dig up earth with its nose on the other side to create a cool place to lie in.
And if you decided to sit down on one of the wooden benches to relax it might happen that a goat jumps up as well to keep you company. It’s such a great experience for all the kids (and adults alike) who are obsessed with animals. Entrance to the ‘Rainguthof’ is free by the way, but they are always happy if you leave a donation in the box provided.
A more magical Autumn you couldn’t wish for! Be it hiking, Törggelen, mountain biking or strolling through the town centre – Lana will surprise you with its variety and beauty and when the last day of your holiday approaches you will already start planning the next.